Ken Wilson RIP


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Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 12, 2016 - 08:08pm PT

You have to be of a certain age to know about Ken Wilson. Publisher of Mountain Magazine, and author of the iconic books on UK rock climbing and hill walking,

Extreme Rock,*Version*=1&*entries*=0,

Hard Rock,*Version*=1&*entries*=0,

Classic Rock,,

Wild Walks,,

Classic Walks,,

The Big Walks,

The First 50 Years of the BMC,,

The Games Climbers Play (KW Editor),

A piece written nine years ago by Mick Ward could well be Ken Wilson's obituary today:

See also (link from Mighty Hiker made active).

And, of course, the thread on UK Climbing,,

and an obituary by a former antagonist:

A man who defined an era.
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

Out Of Bed
Jun 12, 2016 - 08:27pm PT
He was responsible for stiring so many young dreams.., the inspiration to broadcast a high quality magazine full of our passion has, forever changed the thing. Climbing is as great as always maybe greater, Unintended consequences, or the gleam in Ken Wilsons eye?

Talkin' to THE Editor now I'll bet . .

Social climber
Jun 12, 2016 - 08:28pm PT
hey there say, rgold... thank you for sharing and the history, note, too...

i did not know about him...

my condolences to his family and loved ones...
Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
Jun 12, 2016 - 08:30pm PT
I'm very saddened to hear of Ken's death, although I'd heard he was unwell. My sympathies to his family and friends. Like several here, I once contributed (a little) to Mountain, and so had some contact with him, and Tim Lewis, his successor.

Ken contributed enormously to the world of climbing. He may not have been the greatest of climbers, in the technical sense of the word, but was one of our greats.

A long way from where I started
Jun 12, 2016 - 08:38pm PT

Tell me this is not true.

I don't know that I've ever met anyone more full of life than Ken. Or anyone who had a bigger heart.

So long, old friend.


Boulder climber
The high prairie of southern Colorado
Jun 12, 2016 - 08:40pm PT
I met Ken many years ago. Sorry to hear of his passing. Mountain Magazine was an outstanding publication.
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
Jun 12, 2016 - 08:46pm PT
Mountain Mag was HUGE for me as a wee lad. Didn't he edit Games Climber Play? The one was a big influence on me. Enjoy your final lead, old climber. You'll be missed.

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jun 12, 2016 - 08:56pm PT
This is so sad. Ken provided a voice of Yosemite to the world in the early 70s, recognizing the tremendous strides in free climbing and publishing it to the world in Mountain. I was Mountain's stringer for a few of those years, and Ken sheparded my reports on the Yosemite news. Ken also published my "Middle Cathedral Commentary" which highlighted the shift to free climbing in the Valley.

In recent email exchanges, he commented on the closeness of American climbers and our common core. Ken was a stellar voice for climbing worldwide and championed the contribution of American climbers. RIP. My condolences to his loved ones.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jun 12, 2016 - 09:09pm PT
I would almost get sweaty palms waiting to dig into the latest edition.
It was such a quality production that I still have a hard time believing
that he had such a lapse of judgement as to mention the likes of yer
humble servant in a couple of issues.
Todd Eastman

Bellingham, WA
Jun 12, 2016 - 09:27pm PT
British climbing will always be pictured in my mind through all those black and white images...
Tom Patterson

Trad climber
Jun 12, 2016 - 09:44pm PT
Ah, man...this is sad news.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jun 12, 2016 - 09:53pm PT
best wishes to his friends and family.

I never got to meet him, though I have a few emails from recent communications, and I knew his voice well from his editorials in Mountain. His vision for Mountain was extraordinary, and it bound the far flung tribes of climbers together as nothing had prior.

Waiting for the next issue, making plans from the reports in previous issues... dreaming of new areas and new routes, looking at the gorgeous images.

And that magazine produced by his guile and ingenuity, featured what was truly happening on the "cutting edge" of climbing for that era.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Jun 12, 2016 - 10:23pm PT
Mountain was right alongside Climbing and Rock and Ice in the shop I worked at right out of high school. Climbing was about sport. Rock and Ice about it all. And Mountain? Well Mountain was real, was serious and about what real alpinists did toward serious goals and big objectives back then (well, and some crazy grit leads and some controversial sport route in a cove somewhere. ;)

mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jun 12, 2016 - 10:51pm PT
Ken Wilson on politics.

Off Belay.

My tribute elswhere so it won't waste space here on this historic page.
I can hear the figuraive pages of history turning as I type.,,

edit: Roger B, props to thee for keeping us informed from the confines of the ditch.
"sheparded" would not have stood KW's glance. Tsk-tsk. :0)


Ajaccio, Corsica, France
Jun 13, 2016 - 01:27am PT
My warmest thoughts go to Gloria, to Kenís sons, and to his family and close friends.
In the dawn of November 1998, I spent a couple of days with the Editor of the mythical British magazine Mountain. Ken kindly welcome me and my family at home, and gave me access to his incredible collection of climbing books. I spent exhilarating times with one of the strongest supporters of the Clean Climbing philosophy on the planet.

Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
Jun 13, 2016 - 02:41am PT
Sad to hear. He gave the climbing world a lot. RIP

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Jun 13, 2016 - 05:10am PT
Condolences throughout the land!

He was relatively young, what happened?
Mick Ryan

Trad climber
The Peaks
Jun 13, 2016 - 05:15am PT

Some Words About Ken:

As for many in climbing, and the climbing media, Ken was a big influence on my life, especially in my media and publishing career, and his work was influential on me when I started Rockfax in 1989, and even today with fotoVUE - his design skills, thoroughness and attention to detail. He was larger than life, his influence was far reaching, his intellect was sharp and robust, and he was bloody good fun. Like many I am sad to see him go. Here's some words I wrote about him several years ago.

Ken Wilson

Ken Wilson's influence on the global climbing media and climbing politics is far reaching and influential.

He was editor of Mountain magazine from 1969 until 1978 and owner of the outdoor publishers Diadem from 1978 until 1989, until it was incorporated into Hodder. In 1993 Hodder downsized, Ken then set up the publishing house, Baton Wicks.

He was publisher and author of many important outdoor books including: the Hard Rock series, The Games Climbers Play, The Black Cliff, Cold Climbs, Wild, Classic and Big Walk, and others including, Argonauts of the Western Isles, Canoeing across Canada and Run River Run.

Once the world's most authoritative climbing periodical, Mountain magazine is still spoken of in hallowed tones today and influenced quality publications such as Alpinist magazine, as a mountaineering journal of record, with a strong voice, beautiful photography and as a place for robust intellectual debate. Ken's background in architecture gave a him a good grounding in photography and design and this was reflected in Mountain magazine's clean and graphic look.

Ken was a member of the Climbers' Club, he edited their journal in 1976, and iwas intimately involved with the BMC, both as a volunteer and a critic. He iwas an Alpine Club Member and an Honorary Member of the BMC.

He was involved in the argument against the government regulation of climbing and mountaineering in the late 1960's. In the 1980's he led the charge, both verbally, in print and at the crag, against the threat that bolts and sport climbing posed to traditional climbing. His vigorous intellectual debate is not for weak at heart or weak of opinion. You had to be prepared to defend your point of view and your very existence on planet earth.

He said, "my role as editor led me into a variety of political positions.... I felt that Mountain magazine should have a position on the key issues of the day and my editorial word only had authority as I spoke for a range of advisers, contributors and supporters who were (I tried to ensure) amongst the main figures in world climbing. I could not have pushed views had they not been the general ethos of the climbing world.

Obviously when new issues arose or new trends, they had to be incorporated and a position developed. Lightweight alpinism as opposed to conventional expeditions being one of the evolutions during my stint. "

RIP Ken and thoughts to Gloria and his family.

Social climber
Jun 13, 2016 - 06:03am PT
It was always exciting to pick up a copy of Mountain at the LCS. Brought some sunshine and inspiration. SOme folks had centerfolds- I had the cover of Mountain to fantasize over.

Trad climber
colo south
Jun 13, 2016 - 06:35am PT
Mountain was great..remeber the headlines

"john Allen free climbs Great Wall,,but uses chalk!"

"Maestri rapes Cerro Torre"

Great stuff
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